The War on Litter – Mallorca, Balearic Islands
Our oceans are paying the price for tourism.
Litter is a global problem. In fact, it is estimated that 95% of plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers, 8 of which are in Asia. But statistics like this could lead some people to think that littering in the west is not a major contributor to ocean pollution.
Litter is a pet hate and it is incredibly hard for me to walk away from an area which is heavily littered. I feel compelled to clean up, whether I have my litter picker or not, and during a stay in Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca recently, I found myself with a litter collecting obsession.
Every year more than 2.3 million British tourists enjoy holidaying on Mallorca and Port de Pollença is one of the Islands most desirable locations. It sits nestled in the north east, and is famous for its many Cala’s, the Cap de Formentor, a mountainous backdrop and the historic Pine Walk.
On idyllic islands like this one, tourism comes at a cost. The government have supplied hundreds of bins and dozens of recycling points throughout this area and yet, litter can be found just meters away.
Single use plastic can be found everywhere
In one area I found more than 22 plastic ice cream spoons. With its many cafes and restaurants dotted along the coastline, another heavily littered item is sugar sachets, which are all plastic and easily blown from tables onto the beach and into the sea.
There is a lot of familiar litter here too, that we see every day in the UK. Sweet wrappers, cigarette ends, polystyrene pieces, crisp wrappers and baby wipes as well as straws, water bottles and tin cans.
Being so close to the ocean and seeing so much litter should weigh heavy on our conscience. We are being educated by news reports, by documentaries, by scientists and by social media about the damage ocean pollution is having on sea life, ecosystems and ocean habitats.
Each year, an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s ocean from coastal regions. Seventy percent of the mass eventually sinks, damaging life on the seabed. What we see above the surface is literally just a drop in the ocean.
The day after the beautiful umbrellas where installed on the beaches, we walked past to find that all the cable ties had been left on the sand. We managed to collect more than 120 separate cable ties ends from just this one area.
The regional government drafted proposals in 2018 for a ‘greener Mallorca’. Plastic waste and non-recyclable materials would be phased out entirely, while food and drink outlets will be forced to serve tap water. The new legislation would see countless plastic items banned completely. The law, called the Waste and Soils Polluting Bill, aimed to increase recycling rates by up to 50 per cent in two years and cut waste by up to 10 per cent. Single-use plastic objects – including plates, trays, straws, cutlery and coffee cups – would have be heavily restricted, before the majority being prohibited entirely by January 2020. Selling standard plastic bags would have been banned by January 1, 2019 and outlets would instead be encouraged to provide reusable bags instead.
Plastic bags have not been banned and plastic straws are still a widely littered item here.
Governments are not entirely to blame though. As consumers we all need to be conscious of what happens to the items we use, and littering doesn’t happen by accident. It must be physically dropped on the floor or left behind. It’s a conscious decision.
Mallorca is a stunning Island and like all counties in the World, Spain and it’s Islands have much to do to clean up its towns, rivers, and beach resorts, but let’s face it, we can all lend a helping hand to help clean up the mess we have created.
We contacted a Facebook group called ‘I love Puerto Pollenca’ and posted images of the litter we had collected. The group contains more than 18k people and some already collect litter when they visit. Others have pledged to help on their next trip.
How can you help? Next time you are on holiday, look around. As a thank you for the wonderful memories you have created in that place, why not take just 15 minutes of your time on the beach to collect some litter. Post your litter collection on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Let your friends, family and colleagues know that it is ok to collect litter, because protecting our oceans from more plastic pollution is to be celebrated.
Leave it, it’s only a sweet wrapper… Leave it, it’s only a plastic straw… said 1 billion people.